Joseph Zelinko didn't realize his goal of playing baseball in the majors.
But he did find a career building and maintaining ball fields, first for Cleveland professional teams and later for a successful company he operated with his wife out of their Oregon home.
But now the phone at their 12-year-old firm, Athletic Field Services Inc., has been disconnected.
And creditors said the company, which helped install Fifth Third Field and ball fields and tracks at many area college and high schools, has left $274,000 in unpaid bills.
"I get 20 calls a week from people asking how to locate him," said Brad Morrison, who took over many of Mr. Zelinko's jobs. "But I don't know where he is."
Sky Bank won a judgment in March in Lucas County Common Pleas Court for $207,000 against Mr. Zelinko and his wife, Karen, after Athletic Field Services allegedly missed loan payments.
Consport Inc., a firm in Gormley, Ont., that supplies products for athletic fields, claimed in a lawsuit filed in county court in March that it is owed $67,000.
Attorneys for those creditors either couldn't be reached or declined comment.
No telephone number could be obtained for either Joseph or Karen Zelinko from local directory assistance.
Lucas County records show that they divorced in December. The phone number at the home they had shared has been disconnected.
The firm's Web site is still operational and includes testimonials from customers: a coach at top engineering school Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, Terre Haute, Ind., where the metro Toledo firm built a softball field; an administrator at Tiffin University, where Mr. Zelinko installed multiple fields, and Oberlin College, Oberlin, Ohio, for a softball field.
In a 2001 interview with The Blade, Mr. Zelinko said he started Athletic Field Services in 1994 after working on the grounds crew at stadiums used by the Cleveland Indians and Browns.
He had hoped to pitch professionally but suffered a career-ending shoulder injury while trying out for the Cincinnati Reds in 1980, he said.
The firm grew to the point where it was doing extensive work for Toledo area parks and schools, including the University of Toledo, Toledo Christian School, North Baltimore High School, and Columbus Grove High School, documents filed in the court case show.
Mr. Morrison launched his firm, Maumee Bay Athletic Field Systems, last August. Even though the company is located in suburban Oregon, there is no connection between the two firms. And he said he had no role in putting Mr. Zelinko out of business.
"It's unfortunate what happened," he said of the closing. "They were both very nice people."
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